ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Scott Frost wasn't sure what he was walking into upon taking over at UCF last December.

What he has found out in the last 11 months is he inherited a gritty group of players willing to accept coaching and do whatever it takes to return to respectability. The Knights (6-4, 4-2 American Athletic) took a major step Saturday, beating Cincinnati 24-3 to become bowl-eligible after going 0-12 last season.

"I'm happy for our players," said Frost, who was still dripping wet after receiving a Gatorade bath prior to the game's end. "I told them you don't get much in this life you don't earn and they've earned the success they have."

While Frost, who was the former Oregon offensive coordinator, is known for his higher-powered offense, the Knights turn-around this season has had everything to with their defense. And that was certainly the case Saturday as UCF swarmed the Bearcats.

Linebackers Errol Clarke and Shaquem Griffin combined for five sacks on UC quarterback Hayden Moore and then defensive end Seyvon Lowry came up with a game-sealing interception in the third quarter that set up running back Jawon Hamilton's 25-yard touchdown run. The Bearcats (4-6, 1-5) were able to move the ball but were kept out of the end zone and did not score in the second half.

UCF coach Tommy Tuberville, whose team has now lost five of its last six, said his quarterbacks faced constant pressure because of the offense's inability to establish the run against the Knights.

"It was huge," Tuberville said of the five sacks. "What happens is when you can't run the ball, the other team tees off on you."

For the Knights, it was a fitting ending to comeback season.

"It was crazy," Griffin said. "I came in the locker room last and to just see everybody turning up, it was crazy.

"From 0-12 to a bowl game, they said we couldn't do it but we did it."